Friday, February 24, 2012

Formicariums

Better known as ant farms, these transparent devices were introduced to the general public by Frank Austin in 1929 and patented in June, 1931. Austin, Dartmouth class of 1895, was an inventor and developed wide variety of gadgets and toys as part of his "Austin Workshop" for children.  The ant farms proved to be wildly popular.  During the peak of the ant farm craze in the 1930s, Austin and his staff shipped more than 400 ant houses per day from his workshop in Hanover, NH.  In addition to ant farms, Austin also designed and built cricket houses, observational bee hives, and butterfly-rearing kits.

Despite the success of the ant farm and his other "housing" projects, it might be argued that Austin's most influential work was his involvement in the field of medical imaging.  In 1896, Austin, together with Professor Edwin Frost and Dr. Gilman Frost took the first American x-ray photograph of the human body when they imaged the wrist of Eddie McCarthy who had fallen while ice skating.

Eddie McCarthy's wrist
Eddie McCarthy being x-rayed
Austin's papers contain images, business correspondence, bills of sales and receipts related to "The Austin Workshop" as well as materials on his various inventions. The collection also contains several of Austin's short writings: "The Autobiography of Sir Lancelot by Himself," "Honey Bee," "Bumble Bees," "The Ants of King Solomon," "The Lazy Males of Antville," and other ant related pieces.

Ask for MS-186 to see Austin's papers as well as the photo file for "X-Ray".  A guide to Austin's papers is available.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Socialism for the 1% or for 1 cent

We recently complemented our outstanding collection of Kelmscott Press books with this simple publication annotated by William Morris and E. Belfort Bax. Unlike Morris's lavish Kelmscott productions, The Manifesto of the Socialist League (London: Socialist League Office, 1885) was designed and priced at a penny to reach the masses. For his Kelmscott Press books, Morris designed his own types, had them hand cut and cast, secured woodcut illustrations from people like Edward Burne-Jones, executed his own decorative borders, and printed it all on beautiful handmade paper. His books were critiques of modern industrialization and homages to an idealized past where workers were craftsmen closely connected to the fruits of their labors.

Physically, the pamphlet is a jarring contrast to the Kelmscott edition of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1893), but even more so when you see the receipt. Our copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer was originally purchased by C. F. Richardson, a member of the Dartmouth English department. The 1897 receipt shows that Richardson paid $160 for the text block, then an additional $104 for the deluxe binding produced at the Doves Bindery. Adjusted for inflation, that $264 is the equivalent of around $6,800 today.

To see the pamphlet ask for Rare HX11.S63 M26 1885. For Morris's Kelmscott Chaucer, ask for Presses K299c.